English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For October 25/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 05/24-30/:”Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life. ‘Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. ‘I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on October 24-25/2020

Lebanon Records Highest Daily Tally of Virus Cases
US dollar exchange rate: Buying price at LBP 3850, selling price at LBP 3900
UN Chief Calls for ‘Disarmament’ of Hizbullah
Pompeo Says U.S. to Continue Targeting Hizbullah's 'Financing Networks'
President Aoun meets with PM-designate Hariri: Atmosphere positive
Absi, Aoun meet in Yarzeh
Report: Parties 'Near Agreement' on 14-minister Cabinet
Wildfires Break Out in Lebanon
Derian: Freedom of opinion and expression does not mean insulting the beliefs and symbols of others
Sit-in outside French Embassy in Beirut demanding the release of George Abdallah
Tenenti: New COVID-19 cases registered within UNIFIL
Wazni's Press Office clarifies: No pending decrees for waste companies
The return of Saad Hariri: Back to square one in Lebanon?/Rami Rayess/Al Arabiya/Saturday 24 October 2020
One last chance for Hariri, and for Lebanon/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/October 24/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 24-25/2020

New Clashes Rattle Nagorno-Karabakh
The US brokered Sudan-Israel pact will also help deradicalize the region
UAE welcomes US-brokered agreement between Sudan, Israel
Netanyahu says peace deals with Arab states ‘changing the map’ of the Middle East
Israel’s Netanyahu says deal with Sudan start of ‘new era’
NATO says it will reinforce Iraq mission to help local forces
France recalls Turkey envoy after Erdogan says Macron 'needs mental treatment'
OIC Condemns Systemic Assault on Islamic Symbols
Erdogan downplays Libya agreements hinting at spoiler role
Turkey rejects US pressure over Russian S-400 defense system
Coronavirus: Istanbul mayor Imamoglu in hospital after positive test
Egypt begins voting in first round to elect new parliament
Canada/Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Development on United Nations Day
Suicide bomber kills 17 people in Kabul, including schoolchildren
Countries Battle Rising Virus Cases as WHO Sees 'Exponential' Rise
Ethiopia Blasts Trump over Nile Dam
Trump Suggests Egypt May 'Blow Up' GERD, Slams Ethiopia
US Sanctions Russian Institute Linked to Dangerous Malware

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 24-25/2020

World Polio Day is a reminder of hope and a useful lesson for fighting coronavirus/Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari/Al Arabiya/Saturday 24 October 2020
Why Mustafa Al Kadhimi deserves Europe's support/Damien McElroy/The National/October 24/2020
Let’s fight the virus, not each other/Cornelia Meyer/Arab News/October 24/2020
The US: An Inspirational Leader in the Middle East/Con Coughlin/Gatestone Institute./October 24/2020
Is Europe Headed for a Fiscal Union?/Ferdinando Giugliano/Bloomberg/October 24/2020
A $15 Minimum Wage Would Wreck US Economic Recovery/Michael R. Strain/Bloomberg/October 24/2020


The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on October 24-25/2020

Lebanon Records Highest Daily Tally of Virus Cases
Naharnet/Saturday 24 October 2020
Lebanon on Friday announced 1,534 new COVID-19 deaths, the highest daily tally so far for the small country since the first infection was detected on February 21. In its daily statement, the Health Ministry said 1,460 of the cases were confirmed among residents and 74 among people coming from abroad. The new cases raise the overall tally to 68,479 while seven more deaths recorded over the past 24 hours take the death toll to 559. The country has meanwhile recorded 32,412 recoveries. Four of the cases announced on Friday were recorded among health workers. Hospitals meanwhile admitted 685 patients into coronavirus sections over the past 24 hours, including 242 into intensive care units. According to the Health Ministry statement, 14,066 PCR tests were carried out over the past 24 hours, among them 1,100 at Beirut airport.


US dollar exchange rate: Buying price at LBP 3850, selling price at LBP 3900
NNA/Saturday 24 October 2020
The Money Changers Syndicate announced in a statement addressed to money changing companies and institutions Saturday’s USD exchange rate against the Lebanese pound as follows:
Buying price at a minimum of LBP 3850
Selling price at a maximum of LBP 3900

UN Chief Calls for ‘Disarmament’ of Hizbullah
Naharnet/Saturday 24 October 2020
In his latest report on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for "urgent reforms," an "end to corruption" and a “swift” formation of a government Lebanon, Asharq el-Awsat daily reported on Saturday.
Guterres warned in his 32nd semi-annual report that Hizbullah’s involvement in the Syrian war “poses risks to the stability of Lebanon and the region.” He urged “regional countries,” in reference to Iran, to "encourage" the transformation of Hizbullah into a "civil political party, and to disarm it.”
“It demonstrates the failure of Hizbullah to disarm and its refusal to be held accountable to the state institutions,” he said, calling on Hizbullah and other concerned parties "not to engage in any military activity inside or outside Lebanon. Guterres also reiterated calls on Israel to “commit to its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, and ro withdraw its forces from the northern part of Ghajar and an adjacent area north of the Blue Line.” On the massive Beirut port explosion that fattened large parts of the capital, Guterres urged “transparent and credible” investigation.
He also urged authorities to carry out swift reforms and put an end to corruption.

Pompeo Says U.S. to Continue Targeting Hizbullah's 'Financing Networks'
Naharnet/Saturday 24 October 2020
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday announced that the United States “will continue to target, disrupt, and dismantle Hizbullah’s financing and operational networks,” in a statement marking the 1983 bomb attack on the U.S. marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. service members.
“This attack, and the many more that followed around the world, make clear Hizbullah’s commitment to violence and bloodshed and demonstrate its continuing disregard for the lives of the very people that it claims to protect.  These terrorist acts have unmasked Iran, Hizbullah’s patron, as a rogue state willing to pursue its malevolent interests at all costs,” Pompeo said. “On this solemn day, we honor the sacrifice of those brave Americans, and we renew our commitment to preventing Hizbullah and its sponsor Iran from spilling more innocent blood in Lebanon or anywhere in the world,” he added.  “The United States will continue to target, disrupt, and dismantle Hizbullah’s financing and operational networks, and will continue to take all actions available to starve this terrorist entity of funds and support.  We are grateful for the nations around the world that have designated or acted to ban the activities of Hizbullah as a terrorist organization,” Pompeo went on to say.

President Aoun meets with PM-designate Hariri: Atmosphere positive
NNA/October 24/2020
The President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, received designated Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, at 4:00pm today at Baabda Palace, and discussed with him governmental developments. Hariri's Statement: After the meeting, PM Hariri said: "I will not speak much. I had a session with His Excellency the President and the atmosphere is positive. I will not answer any questions". ---[Presidency Press Office]

Presidency Information Office issues clarification statement on Aoun-Hariri meeting today
NNA/October 24/2020
The Information Office of the Presidency of the Republic issued the following statement: Media outlets broadcasted information about the meeting between the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, and the Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, which took place today.
The Information Office is concerned to confirm that the meeting was closed between the two presidents, and that Baabda Palace did not release any information about it. Therefore, the distributed news is false, so clarification was required.

Absi, Aoun meet in Yarzeh
NNA/October 24/2020
Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Youssef Absi, met Saturday morning in Yarzeh with Army Commander General Joseph Aoun. Absi's visit came within the framework of praising the efforts of the Lebanese army in preserving and maintaining Lebanon's sovereignty.

Report: Parties 'Near Agreement' on 14-minister Cabinet
Naharnet/Saturday 24 October 2020
An almost “final” agreement has reportedly been reached between political parties in crisis-hit Lebanon to form a 14-minister government, two days after PM Saad Hariri was designated for the task, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. According to information obtained by the daily, the agreement to form a cabinet of “nonpolitical experts” has become almost “definite.” To face the challenges ahead, the new ministers should have enough economic and financial expertise in order to create a positive atmosphere at the local level, and pave way for international assistance.
It added that the understanding is "settled between the two parties to the formation," namely President Michel Aoun and Hariri, to form a government “in accordance with the constitution.”In that regard LBCI tv station said that Hariri is expected to meet Aoun Saturday afternoon for the cabinet talks.

Wildfires Break Out in Lebanon
Naharnet/Saturday 24 October 2020
Wildfires triggered by a heatwave unusual for this time of the year broke out in different Lebanese regions, the National News Agency reported on Saturday. In the Jbeil town of Bentael, a large fire broke out after midnight and spread over an area of more than 70 thousand meters of land, said NNA. The flames were getting very close to residential places and destroyed large areas of trees. Fire also broke out in Dinnieh in Bkaasefrin, in Batroun’s towns of Jrebta and Sghar, in south Lebanon’s town of Naas in Hasbaya and in the town of Hebbarieh, and in the outskirts of Qbayat in Akkar. In Sidon fire broke out in olive groves on the Shamma highway. Firefighting teams of the Civil Defense fought fires in the country’s north, and south. People demanded that investigations be run into the incidents.


Derian: Freedom of opinion and expression does not mean insulting the beliefs and symbols of others
NNA/Saturday 24 October 2020
Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Sheikh Abdul-Latif Derian, affirmed that “insulting the Prophet of Islam Muhammad from time to time by individuals who exploit the concept of freedom in their country, constitutes a continuous assault on all Muslims in the world and provokes their feelings, which requires officials in these countries to put a final end to this issue in order to avoid negative repercussions. "The Mufti stressed in a statement that "the freedom of opinion, speech and expression through its various means does not entail insulting the beliefs and symbols of others, and this requires a reconsideration of the concept of absolute freedom that has no limits, and a return to the true concepts of freedom of expression that stand on respecting others and without prejudice to their beliefs and symbols."He expressed his fear that "the matter will escalate and negatively affect the peaceful coexistence of the peoples of the world, with their sects and affiliations, while Islam is keen on respecting others and not being drawn into actions that undermine security, and destabilize and harm relations between countries.""Muslims in the world will continue to cling to their love for the Prophet Muhammad" the Mufti concluded.


Sit-in outside French Embassy in Beirut demanding the release of George Abdallah
NNA/October 24/2020
The "National Campaign to Free the Prisoner George Ibrahim Abdallah" staged a sit-in outside the French Embassy in Beirut this afternoon, which coincided with a sit-in in front of Lannemezan Prison, Abdallah's Detention Center in France, and outside the French Embassy in Tunisia and Palestine, calling for his "immediate release and his return to his country, Lebanon."Abdallah's family members, companions, and a number of his supporters participated in the sit-in, marking 36 years since his detention in French prisons. Amidst tight security measures, they stood carrying photos of Abdallah with the words, "Freedom for the Heroic Fighter George Abdallah". Participants also chanted against France's continued arrest of Abdallah and the negligence of successive Lebanese governments towards the issue of his release. The Campaign indicated that "a life sentence was issued against Abdallah in 1987. However, in 1999, he fulfilled the conditions of the French penal code required for his release, yet it has been stalled by US-Israeli orders since 2003."Campaign members pledged to pursue their struggle through various means until Abdallah's release and return to his homeland and people is realized.

Tenenti: New COVID-19 cases registered within UNIFIL

NNA/October 24/2020
UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti confirmed Saturday that "new COVID-19 cases have been registered within UNIFIL's ranks," noting that "all necessary and strict precautionary measures are being implemented, in terms of contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, which is what we always do." "There has been no mixing of residents and communities. We are screening all other people who have been in contact with positive cases and placing them under quarantine," Tenenti reassured.His words came in response to media reports today which spoke about new "Covid-19" infections among the UNIFIL peacekeeping forces.

Wazni's Press Office clarifies: No pending decrees for waste companies

NNA/October 24/2020
Caretaker Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni's press office issued a clarification statement today regarding the controversy over the waste companies' dossier, stating that the Finance Ministry has settled since the beginning of the year 2020 payment decrees of $82.2 million and 7.4 billion Lebanese pounds and draft decrees worth $21 million, stressing that it does not have any pending payment decrees due for waste companies.Moreover, the statement indicated that "the state pays all its dues and contracts to companies in the national currency, i.e. the Lebanese lira, while the waste companies' crisis, which they have expressed in more than one meeting, is their need for the Fresh Dollar and converting their dues from the Lira into the US Dollar, which is not the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance.""The Ministry of Finance had sent a letter on October 20 to Lebanon's Central Bank, requesting to provide funding in dollars for contracts with the Council for Development and Reconstruction to manage solid household waste, but has not received any response yet," the statement concluded.

The return of Saad Hariri: Back to square one in Lebanon?
Rami Rayess/Al Arabiya/Saturday 24 October 2020
Almost a year ago, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned as the Lebanese took to the streets in protest of his cabinet’s decision to tax WhatsApp calls. Now Hariri has returned to the post he left with one difference: the economic situation is even worse. Considering the country’s intricate balance of sectarian power, this controversial return will not be an easy journey, with little hopes that anything will actually change for the better.
Besides the festivities that accompanied the one year mark since the start of the “Lebanese Revolution,” nothing much has changed in the political structure. The consequent waves of mass protests that shook the country for a few months and retreated with the three-month lockdown imposed due to the spread of coronavirus, have failed to upset the current balance that is mainly dominated by political parties.
Protesters have failed to develop a unified agenda on how to implement change. In the first few weeks of the revolution, several political parties felt endangered by the growing and accumulating anger of the people.
However, as time passed, these parties have proved to be resilient. Change has never been an easy endeavor in Lebanon.
This has actually led to returning to the same old political approaches - a prominent example being the nomination process of the prime minister. The same parties comprising the parliament are making the choice again, this is normal in a parliamentary system.
However, the precedent is to agree on the cabinet before officially nominating the PM. Without no agreement on the cabinet reached yet, it is basically a violation of the constitution where the president of the republic should call for mandatory consultations immediately after the resignation of the old cabinet. As negotiations kick off to create a new cabinet, the same shall apply. What was theoretically agreed upon in the French presidential initiative - especially regarding the insistence that a new cabinet must include non-partisan, professional experts - has actually evaporated. What is expected is a political establishment-supported cabinet that will include members nominated by the various political forces, not independent ministers.
Any cabinet that does earn the support of the political forces comprising the parliament will not earn the Lebanese vote of confidence. It is a vicious circle. Calls for early parliamentary elections have been blocked by Hezbollah, whose refusal toppled the results of the last elections held in 2018.
The term of the current parliament expires in May 2022.
This is not to say that parties cannot nominate experts for the different ministerial portfolios, but they will not have the capacity of taking totally independent decisions. Even if they do, the parliament’s structure is dominated by the political parties, which is only normal in a democracy - no matter how ailing that democracy is.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced earlier this month that his country will organize a conference to regulate the flow of humanitarian aid to Lebanon next November.
This cannot be pursued without a trustworthy cabinet. The French foreign minister previously said that “Lebanon risked disappearing due to the inaction of its political elite who needed to quickly implement a new government to implement crucial reforms for the country.”
If the political elite succeed in creating a new cabinet - which will not be an easy task at all in light of the contradictory demands by the different forces - the challenge of launching reforms shall be a more difficult and complicated issue.
Hariri has set a precedent in the way he nominated himself to premiership. He shall bear the consequences of that decision, which might prove costly at the political level in the sense that it will increase the requests of the various political parties in the cabinet formation process.
No matter the end result, the agony that the Lebanese people are passing through will probably require years for recovery, that is if solutions are put on the right track. In the meantime, poverty rates are rising and the national currency is losing more of its purchasing power.
Lebanon needs an economic uplift - the only mandatory path for that is the creation of a cabinet capable of earning trust locally and internationally.
Are we going in that direction? Lebanon has always been unpredictable and will continue as such.

One last chance for Hariri, and for Lebanon
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/October 24/2020
With Saad Hariri nominated for his fourth stint as Lebanon’s prime minister on the narrowest of parliamentary votes, many observers are commenting that this will be the final opportunity the nation will be willing to grant him. And not only the final chance for Hariri — but for Lebanon.
If he is to succeed this time around, Hariri must learn from the mistakes of his previous premiership, when he was forced into compromise after compromise by Hezbollah in their unceasing efforts to render Lebanon a broken and hollowed-out satellite state of Tehran, dragging the nation into the miserable, impoverished reality it finds itself in today.
Hariri insists on this being a technocratic government, and there must be no backsliding from that principle. This must be a government of national salvation, capable of securing a bailout from the IMF and other major donors; taking the necessary steps to restore the economy to a sound footing; ensuring that there are credible answers about the August port explosion; grappling with the coronavirus pandemic; and setting Lebanon on the path toward a new political system in which the most powerful 5 percent aren’t corruptly devouring the entire wealth of the remaining 95 percent. Beyond the financial exigencies, this must be about restoring Lebanon’s identity and sovereignty, enjoying relations on an equal footing with a multitude of foreign interlocutors, but beholden to nobody.
Some segments of the protest movement regard Hariri’s candidature as a betrayal. This is understandable. The vision of protesters for a radically different governing system is absolutely correct and they mustn’t lose sight of this goal. But the conditions simply don’t exist at present for such a leap of faith. They should see Hariri’s premiership as their opportunity for a genuine transition. Instead of opposing Hariri, they should pile intense pressure on him to fundamentally remodel Lebanon and jettison this corrupt, sectarian, self-consuming governing model.
Most of us detest everything that Hassan Nasrallah and President Michel Aoun stand for, but right now they aren’t going anywhere. The most immediate threat is wholesale collapse of Lebanon’s institutions and a slide into sectarian war, which based on past experience could require more than 15 blood-drenched years to emerge from. The current situation in Lebanon is unimaginably bleak, but we remember how much worse it can be.
Around Hariri’s candidature we have witnessed some of the most grotesque examples of scheming and political horse-trading among Maronite factional leaders: Gebran Bassil, Suleiman Frangieh, Samy Gemayel and Samir Geagea still narcissistically believe no higher objective exists than positioning themselves for the presidency. It’s a secret to nobody what Aoun and Bassil will have prioritized during talks with Hariri. These kleptocratic clans are relics of the civil war era, sharing responsibility for many of the darkest chapters of the country’s history. Given that they are poised to be swept away in the transformations engulfing Lebanon, can’t they infinitesimally redeem themselves by departing with a drop of dignity?
All patriotic Lebanese — Shiite, Christians, Druze and Sunnis alike — should be praying that Hariri succeeds, as if their lives depend on it. Because it may well be that their lives do depend on it!
Hezbollah too recognizes that there are few credible alternatives to Hariri. But if they sabotage Hariri’s candidature with self-interested demands to retain their hold on key offices of state, then Hezbollah will also go down with this sinking ship. Hezbollah are certainly as aware as anybody of the volatile situation facing the broader region; if they don’t secure their Lebanese base, they will ultimately be blown away in the course of events. At the very least, Hariri’s appointment sidelines the complicit and hopeless caretaker administration of Hassan Diab, under whose watch Lebanese banks were emptied of funds and the economy plunged to new lows.
Hariri enjoys excellent relationships throughout the international community and the Arab world, including with pivotal figures such as French Emmanuel President Macron. This is the moment to call in this support, convince donors and diplomats that Lebanon is capable of saving and deserves to be saved, and set out a vision for what Lebanon can achieve when it puts this crisis behind it.
For Arab or Western decision-makers who may be reading this and were planning to wait until something better emerges in Beirut – Hariri is the best you are going to get at this moment. Everywhere I hear pessimism about his prospects, but such pessimism risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. This may be the final opportunity to salvage Lebanon. Please don’t have it on your conscience that you failed to take it. Indeed, it was Hariri who chaired the 2018 Paris donor conference; the promised funds, in excess of $11 billion, are still awaiting a competent administration that can be trusted to use them responsibly.
Where other politicians turned hiding their immense fortunes into an art form, Hariri has invited scrutiny of his account books. Indeed, he included himself within the protesters’ demand that “kullun yaani kullun” — all of them means all of them. He recognizes that he is potentially a transitional figure on borrowed time, and if his latest premiership fails there will be a host of mocking, blaming figures saying: “I told you so!” However, if Hariri succeeds against the odds, he will be equally deserving as his father to be included in the pantheon of great Lebanese statesmen.
When considering his path forward, more than once Hariri has told me that “I am a patient man.” Now is not the moment to be a patient man. We are about to lose our country. This is the moment for Hariri to reinvent himself as a revolutionary, steamrollering through radical change at breakneck speed. He arguably requires far more than the meager six months he has been allotted, particularly since he must achieve far more in this period than a succession of corrupt and clientelistic administrations achieved in the 40 years since the end of the civil war.
Ultimately, Hariri must succeed because failure is not an option. Failure now — when most households can’t feed themselves, amid a pandemic of unemployment, with the nation’s social fabric on a knife edge — would be too horrible to contemplate.
All patriotic Lebanese — Shiite, Christians, Druze and Sunnis alike — should be praying that Hariri succeeds, as if their lives depend on it. Because it may well be that their lives do depend on it!
*Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 24-25/2020

New Clashes Rattle Nagorno-Karabakh
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 24 October, 2020 - 12:00
New clashes broke out between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over Nagorno-Karabakh a day after talks in Washington to try to end the deadly fighting. Azerbaijan's defense ministry reported fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a part of Azerbaijan populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians. Local officials accused Azerbaijan's forces of shelling buildings in Stepanakert, the largest city in the region, which Baku denied. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met separately with the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia on Friday in a new attempt to end nearly a month of bloodshed that Russian President Vladimir Putin said may have killed 5,000 people. The collapse of two Russia-brokered ceasefires had already dimmed the prospect of a quick end to fighting that broke out on Sept. 27 over Nagorno-Karabakh, Reuters reported. Azeri forces say they have made territorial gains, including full control over the border with Iran, which Armenia denies. Nagorno-Karabakh's ethnic Armenian administration says its forces have repulsed attacks. President Ilham Aliyev told French newspaper Le Figaro that Azerbaijan was ready to sit down for negotiations but blamed Armenia's actions for the continued hostilities. "We are ready to stop even today," Aliyev was quoted as saying. "But, unfortunately, Armenia grossly violated the ceasefire ...If they don't stop, we will go to the end with the aim of liberating all the occupied territories." US President Donald Trump said "good progress" was being made on the issue but did not elaborate and declined to say if he had spoken with the leaders of either country. Asked how his talks went, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan told reporters "very good" as he exited the US State Department, and added that work on a ceasefire would continue. Shortly before the Washington talks, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul that he hoped Moscow and Ankara could work together on resolving the conflict. Differences over the conflict have further strained relations between Ankara and its NATO allies, with Pompeo accusing Turkey of fueling the conflict by arming the Azeri side. Ankara denies it has inflamed the conflict. Pompeo had said ahead of Friday's talks that he hoped the "right path forward" could be found. But Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said he saw no diplomatic resolution of the conflict at this stage, and Aliyev has described the prospects of a peace settlement as "very remote".

The US brokered Sudan-Israel pact will also help deradicalize the region
Debkafile/October 24/2020
Sudan’s consent to normalize ties with Israel and end the state of belligerence between them, that was sealed by President Donald Trump on Oct. 23, is significant in a different way from last-month’s peace deals with the UAE and Bahrain. Under its deposed leader Omar al-Bashar, Sudan was long a bitter enemy which fought in two Arab wars against Israel, was once tied to Iran by a military alliance and crucially supported the Palestinian Hamas as well as al Qaeda. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo therefore trod a minefield on his path for swinging Sudan over to normal ties with Israel – even after the Bashir regime was purged last year. Removing Sudan from the US list of terrorism sponsors was contingent on Khartoum paying compensation to Al Qaeda’s victims in the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Shortly before the Israel-Sudan deal was announced – 11 days before the US presidential election – Trump notified Congress of “his intent to formally rescind Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.”Its decision will free Washington to grant the transitional government access to billions of dollars of financial assistance, desperately needed for an economy crippled by decades of Bashir’s misrule, internal conflict and political upheaval, as well as the covid-19 pandemic. After the joint communique, PM Binyamin Netanyahu could not resist recalling Sudan’s radical history from the three “noes” pledged by the Arab summit in Khartoum after the 1967 war – no peace with Israel, no recognition and no negotiations – to a new era of yeses. He hailed the ending the cycle or war and the start oof economic and trade relations, focusing on agriculture. Formal diplomatic relations will come at a later stage. Completing the normalization process is subject to approval by the yet-to-be formed legislative council under a power-sharing deal between the military officers and the civilians, who have been running the country jointly since the overthrow of Bashar last year, under the leadership of Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.The timeline for this process is not clear.The political situation in Khartoum is therefore fragile.
Iran once maintained warships in Port Khartoum and an arms factory for smuggling weapons to Hamas through Sinai. Then, in 2015, The Bashir regime swapped its ties with Tehran for an alignment with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Today, both Gulf rulers share the strong US and Israeli interest in preventing Tehran from using the political uncertainty in Khartoum for regaining a foothold in Sudan. From there, the Islamic Republic could hope to spread its wings to such targets as the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Horn of Africa and the African interior.
Thriving relations with the US and Israel are expected to further distance post-Bashir Sudan from the radical camp.

UAE welcomes US-brokered agreement between Sudan, Israel

Joseph Haboush, Al Arabiya English/October 24/2020
The United Arab Emirates Friday welcomed the agreement between Sudan and Israel to normalize ties, expressing its optimism that the deal would help peace in the region. The UAE Foreign Ministry said it hoped the deal would positively impact pushing forward with peace in the region and globally.
A statement from the Foreign Ministry, carried by the state-run Emirates News Agency, said that Sudan’s decision was an “important step,” which would improve security and prosperity in the Arab world. It will also expand the “range of scope of economic, commercial, scientific and diplomatic cooperation,” the statement said. On Friday, US President Donald Trump held a three-way phone call with the leaders of Sudan and Israel to announce the deal. Sudan became the third Arab country to normalize Tel Aviv ties after the UAE and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords last month. Trump removed Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List after Khartoum agreed to a number of points, including the payment of $335 million to American victims of terrorist attacks and their families. Sudan, which recently broke free of yearslong rule by Islamist president Omar al-Bashir, will now have access to badly-needed economic aid.

Netanyahu says peace deals with Arab states ‘changing the map’ of the Middle East
AFP/Sunday 25 October 2020
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that a trio of normalization accords with Arab states offered an end to Israel’s former geographic isolation, with shorter and cheaper flights. “We are changing the map of the Middle East,” he told a televised press conference in Hebrew, pointing to a whiteboard with diagrams of flight corridors. Air travel over Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates would save passengers heading for India and other Asian destinations “hours and a lot of money of course,” he said. Israel struck landmark agreements last month with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and on Friday, agreed with Sudan to normalize relations in a US-brokered deal. “There will be more countries,” Netanyahu said. Saudi Arabia still has no formal ties with Israel, but now allows flights in its air space. The Sudan rapprochement, Netanyahu said, would open up benefits for Israelis crossing the Atlantic. “We now fly westward, over Sudan, according to agreements we made even before we announced normalization, (and) over Chad, with which we also established relations, to Brazil and South America,” he said. “Israel was completely isolated...Israel is now connecting to the whole world,” he added.

Israel’s Netanyahu says deal with Sudan start of ‘new era’
Reuters/October 24/2020
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Friday that Israel was taking steps to normalize ties with Sudan, calling it the start of “a new era” in the region. In a statement in which he thanked US President Donald Trump for brokering the deal, Netanyahu also said that Israeli and Sudanese delegations would meet soon to discuss commercial and agricultural cooperation. “What an amazing turnabout,” Netanyahu said. “Today Khartoum says yes to peace with Israel, yes to recognition of Israel and yes to normalization with Israel,” he said in a Hebrew-language statement sent to AFP.

NATO says it will reinforce Iraq mission to help local forces
AFP/Saturday 24 October 2020
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday a meeting of western military alliance defense ministers had agreed to expand its training mission in Iraq to help Iraqi forces fight extremism. “While the security situation remains challenging, NATO remains committed to stepping up our support,” said Stoltenberg after a two-day defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels. “Our aim is to help build self-sustaining Iraqi forces able to fight terrorism, prevent the return of ISIS, and stabilize their country,” added Stoltenberg, citing a “concerning” rise in the number and sophistication of attacks against international forces in Iraq. NATO maintains a 500-strong training mission in the country to prepare local forces in the event of attacks from Islamic State extremists. Stoltenberg said the scope of the mission’s upgrading would be decided at a meeting of alliance defense ministers in February.
‘Forever from Mosul’: Iraq Jewish diaspora reflects on roots with scholars, UN repAnti-US sentiment spiked anew in Iraq following the January killing of powerful Iranian military commander Major General Qassem Soleimani in a US airstrike near Baghdad, leading to a suspension of NATO training of Iraqi forces. The Covid-19 pandemic also forced the alliance to dial down numbers earlier this year but the mission has since returned to full capacity, Stoltenberg said. Turning to Afghanistan, Stoltenberg urged the Taliban to reduce “unacceptable levels of violence” and break ties with violent groups.
But he also betrayed concern over last week’s US announcement that the American troop contingent will be cut to around 2,500 early next year – despite the potential impact on peace negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents. Both sides’ original understanding was that Washington would not fully withdraw prior to a solid deal between the two sides. “The negotiations in Doha are fragile, but they are the best chance for peace in a generation. And all Afghans should seize this historic opportunity,” said Stoltenberg, cautioning that “the next months are decisive for Afghanistan. “NATO backs the peace process. And we have adjusted our presence to support it,” scaling its troop presence back to less than 12,000 from more than one hundred thousand. “We decided to go into Afghanistan together; we will make decisions about future adjustments together; and we will leave together, when the time is right,” Stoltenberg insisted.

France recalls Turkey envoy after Erdogan says Macron 'needs mental treatment'
The National/October 24/2020
Turkish leader lashed out at French president's reaction to beheading of teacher France on Saturday said it was recalling its envoy to Turkey for consultations after “unacceptable” comments by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioning the mental health of French President Emmanuel Macron because of his attitude towards Muslims.Earlier this month, Mr Macron pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, which he said was threatening to take control in some Muslim communities around France, drawing a sharp rebuke from the Turkish leader. France and its Nato ally are already at loggerheads over issues including maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean and conflicts in Libya, Syria and most recently between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. But Ankara has now been particularly incensed by a campaign championed by Mr Macron to protect France’s secular values against radical Islam, a debate given new impetus by the murder this month of a teacher who showed his class a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. “President Erdogan’s comments are unacceptable. Excess and rudeness are not a method. We demand that Erdogan change the course of his policy because it is dangerous in every respect,” a French presidential official told AFP. In an unusual move, the official said the French ambassador to Turkey was being recalled for consultations and would meet Mr Macron to discuss the situation. The Elysee official, who asked not to be named, also said France had noted “the absence of messages of condolence and support” from the Turkish president after the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty near Paris. Mr Erdogan criticised Mr Macron over his policies towards France’s large Muslim minority, saying that he needed “mental checks”. “What’s the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims?” Mr Erdogan asked. “Macron needs mental treatment,” Mr Erdogan said. He indicated he did not expect Mr Macron to win a new mandate in the 2022 elections. The Elysee official said Mr Erdogan had two months to reply to the demands for a change in stance and that it ends its “dangerous adventures” in the eastern Mediterranean and “irresponsible conduct” over Nagorno-Karabakh, where Ankara is strongly backing Baku.
“Measures need to be taken by the end of the year,” the official said.


OIC Condemns Systemic Assault on Islamic Symbols
Jeddah- Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 24 October, 2020
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) denounced the systemic attacks on Muslim sentiments by insulting the religious symbols and the person of the Prophet Mohammed, reiterating its condemnation of any terrorist acts committed in the name of religion. The organization’s General Secretariat issued a statement Friday, announcing that it has been following the ongoing practice of running satirical caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammad. The organization indicated it was surprised that some French officials gave statements that harm the Muslim-French relations, and allow hatemongering for only serving partisan political interests. The General Secretariat says it will always condemn practices of blasphemy and insulting of Prophets of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The OIC has earlier condemned the brutal murder of French citizen, Samuel Paty, asserting that it does not represent Islam or its values and that it is an individual or collective act of terrorism that should be punished according to the laws. The General Secretariat reiterates its condemnation of the justification for blasphemy-based harassment of any religion in the name of freedom of expression. It deplores pairing Islam and Muslims with terrorism, urging for a review of anti-Muslim discriminatory policies, unjustifiably provocative to the feelings of a billion and a half Muslims across the world.


Erdogan downplays Libya agreements hinting at spoiler role
The Arab Weekly/October 24/2020
Ankara refuses to see an end to its intervention in Libya.
TRIPOLI – Statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hours after the UN mission in Libya announced that the 5 + 5 military committee had reached an agreement on a permanent ceasefire, included a veiled threat to resume fighting. Ankara is obviously disgruntled by the agreement, since one of the most prominent items in the deal is expelling all mercenaries from the country, which is aimed at ending Russian and Turkish presence and influence in Libya. Erdogan described the ceasefire agreement as lacking in credibility and said that time will show its reliability. His statements were in response to questions from the press as he was coming out from performing Friday prayers in a mosque in Istanbul. Erdogan expressed his belief that signing an agreement for a permanent ceasefire in Libya is not reliable. He explained that it was reached at the level of two delegates, one representing Khalifa Haftar, Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA), and the other a military commander from Misrata representing the Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez al-Sarraj. He pointed out that the ceasefire agreement in Libya “is not an agreement at the highest level, and the days will show the extent of its steadfastness.”“I hope that this ceasefire decision will be respected,” he added.
In an answer to a question about the consensus agreement regarding the withdrawal of mercenaries from Libya, Erdogan said, “We do not know the validity of (the decision) to withdraw mercenaries from there within three months.”Observers were not surprised by Erdogan’s statements, as Libyan military leaders close to Ankara had previously hinted at resuming the fighting after Defence Minister Salah al-Din al-Nimroush pushed military reinforcements to a number of cities in the western region, accusing the LNA of planning to attack those cities, an accusation denied by the army’s spokesman.
Before that, Misrata militias affiliated with the Government of National Accord had conducted military manoeuvres near Sirte. These manoeuvres were considered a Turkish message to Washington and the UN mission that any attempts to marginalise Turkey and the militias will be met by resumption of the war and thus aborting the settlement efforts led by the acting head of the UN mission in Libya, Stephanie Williams, and the US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland.
Not letting go
The continued Turkish escalation reflects Ankara’s refusal to accept the idea of ​​the end of its role in Libya, which worries many of the countries involved in the Libyan file, especially Egypt, Algeria, France and Greece. Many had linked the Turkish persistent encroachment in Libya to a US green-light for Ankara to do so in order to counter Russian influence there. Turkey has, however, interpreted the matter as meaning that it was in a position to decide on the course of events in western Libya. This explains Erdogan’s underestimation of the importance of the party representing the GNA, which is also divided. According to analysts, the representatives of the Government of National Accord in the Joint Military Committee (5 + 5) are in fact loyal to Prime Minister Sarraj and not followers of its Minister of Interior Fathi Bashagha, who is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Bashagha preferred not to comment on the agreement reached in Geneva, while Sarraj welcomed it. On Friday, Sarraj said that the two delegations of the Libyan Joint Military Committee had reached a ceasefire agreement “that paves the way for the success of the remaining dialogue tracks.”He added that “the permanent ceasefire agreement prevents any further spilling of blood and alleviates the suffering of the citizens and paves the way for the success of other economic and political dialogue tracks.” Analysts, however, believe that the possibility of a new outbreak of fighting in Libya is not remote, especially in light of the United States’ insistence on not recognising any Russian role in the country. Such fears were reflected in statements by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. “I appeal to all concerned parties and regional powers to respect the terms of the ceasefire agreement and to ensure its implementation without delay,” Guterres said. Guterres also called for the full implementation of the arms embargo imposed on Libya by the United Nations. Despite the announcement of a temporary truce since last August, Ankara continues to send weapons to Libya, which raises questions about the ability of the United States—which is accused of encouraging Turkey to intervene in the country in the first place—to deter Ankara and force it to abide by any subsequent understandings that may include cancelling the agreement on the demarcation of maritime borders between the GNA and Turkey, especially in light of the escalation of local and European reactions calling the agreement illegal. It is expected that political talks of the inter-Libyan dialogue will start on November 9 in the suburbs of the capital of Tunisia. These talks are expected to lead to the formation of a new executive authority in Libya.
The European Commission welcomed the announcement of the ceasefire in Libya on Friday and called for its implementation and the resumption of peace talks. “The permanent ceasefire agreement is essential for the resumption of political dialogue,” European Union foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano told reporters, stressing that “it is also very important that this agreement be implemented.”The United Nations envoy to Libya said that the two parties agreed to a complete and permanent ceasefire in various parts of the country, and that it would take effect immediately.
According to the agreement, the two sides will form a joint military committee to operate in an operations room leading a limited force of ordinary personnel. Its mission will be to enumerate and classify all armed groups in Libya, with the help of the United Nations, and work on whether and how to integrate their fighters into state institutions.A new joint police operations room will be charged with securing the areas from which the forces of both sides will withdraw. The two sides will work with the United Nations mission to find a mechanism for monitoring the truce.

Turkey rejects US pressure over Russian S-400 defense system
AFP/Saturday 24 October 2020
Turkey on Saturday dismissed US criticism that the Russian defense systems it has bought are not compatible with Ankara’s NATO commitments. The Pentagon on Friday strongly condemned the first test of a Russian-made S-400. “We have been clear and unwavering in our position: an operational S-400 system is not consistent with Turkey’s commitments as a US and NATO ally,” said US Department of Defense spokesman Jonathan Hoffman. But Turkey stood by its decision Saturday, insisting it was meeting its NATO commitments. “Turkey’s goal is not upset anyone but to ensure its people’s security,” defense ministry spokesperson Sebnem Aktop said in a statement. The S-400 test came despite repeated warnings of sanctions from the US State Department if the system was activated. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday confirmed the first test of the S-400 defense system saying: “We are not going to ask America for permission.”'

Coronavirus: Istanbul mayor Imamoglu in hospital after positive test

Reuters, Istanbul/Saturday 24 October 2020
Istanbul’s mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said on Saturday he has been hospitalized after testing positive for coronavirus and suffering a fever. “Yesterday evening around 9 p.m. I got a fever and with a temperature of 38 degrees. I came and spent the night in hospital,” he said in a video apparently filmed in a hospital room. “Now I am actually well. My fever is not bad. The process is continuing. There is nothing that can be viewed as negative in a medical sense,” he added. Istanbul’s American Hospital said in a statement that Imamoglu, an opponent of President Tayyip Erdogan, was admitted at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT) after displaying symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection. It said he tested positive for coronavirus and his treatment was continuing. Imamoglu, from the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), was elected mayor in a re-run election in June 2019 in what was at the time a blow to Erdogan and his ruling AK Party. Since then, there have been sporadic tensions between his municipality and the central government, including disputes over fundraising and measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic in the early stages of the outbreak.

Egypt begins voting in first round to elect new parliament
Reuters/Saturday 24 October 2020
Polls opened in Egypt on Saturday for parliamentary elections that will stretch over several weeks and are set to be dominated by supporters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. A first round of voting will end on Sunday, with a second round on November 7-8. Run-offs will take place in late November and early December. The polls are being held under a new electoral law under which 50 percent of 568 contested seats will be allocated to pre-selected lists, a system critics say benefits Sisi’s backers. The remaining contested seats will be allocated to individual candidates, and Sisi can appoint up to 28 legislators directly.
Mostaqbal Watn (Nation’s Future), which in August won nearly three-quarters of the contested seats in an election for Egypt’s Senate, an advisory body, is the favorite to come out top.

Canada/Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Development on United Nations Day
October 24, 2020 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, today issued the following statement:
“75 years ago, in the wake of the Second World War, the world was faced with a rebuilding project on a scale never before witnessed. Confronted with this monumental task, the international community turned outwards, creating the United Nations, whose architecture continues to underpin today's international order. The framers of the United Nations Charter knew that we go farther when we go together. They chose openness over isolationism, cooperation over rivalry, open palms over closed fists.
“Today is a day to celebrate the achievements and ambition of the United Nations: a world where might is not right and in which all countries, no matter their size or influence, can count on fair treatment and equal consideration before the international community.
“Canadians take pride in our country's history of international cooperation and our resolute support for the UN and the rules-based international order. From Canada’s pioneering role in peacekeeping to our Feminist International Assistance Policy; from our work on the UN Sustainable Development Goals to our role in responding to humanitarian emergencies and conflict, we have led the way towards a more just and inclusive world. Multilateralism and collaboration are core to our identity and place in the community of nations.
“Canada continues to bring a unique perspective to bear on the problems of our time, informed and enriched by the pluralism of our own country. We believe that we are stronger because of our differences, not in spite of them. This was the belief upon which our country was built, and it is one that finds even more relevance in today's polarized world.”

Suicide bomber kills 17 people in Kabul, including schoolchildren
The National/October 24/2020
Taliban deny involvement in attack on education centre in Afghan capital
A suicide bomber killed at least 17 people and wounded 48 others, including schoolchildren, outside a college in Kabul on Saturday. The Taliban denied involvement in the blast. It happened in the late afternoon in Dasht-e Barchi, a western district of the Afghan capital, at a centre that offers training and courses for students in higher education. A suicide bomber wanted to enter the education centre,” interior ministry spokesperson Tareq Arain said. “But he was identified by the centre’s guards after which he detonated his explosives in an alley.” He said initial reports showed that 10 people were killed and 20 wounded. The Afghan health ministry later put the toll at 17 dead and 48 wounded. Residents in several districts of western Kabul belong to the minority Shiite Hazara community, often targeted by Sunni extremists including ISIS. Attack widely condemned. Stefanao Pontecorvo, Nato Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan, condemned the attack. He was joined by Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, who termed it "coward suicide attack". EU Special Envoy to Afghanistan Roland Kobia called for an immediate ceasefire after the attack. Violence in Afghanistan has surged in recent weeks, despite the Taliban and government holding intra-Afghan peace talks to end the country’s years-long war. The US signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February, opening a path towards withdrawing American troops from the conflict. Earlier on Saturday a roadside bomb killed nine people in eastern Afghanistan after it struck a minivan carrying civilians, a local official said. Ghazni province police spokesman Ahmad Khan Sirat said a second roadside bomb killed two policemen after it struck their vehicle, which was making its way to victims of the first explosion. Mr Sirat said the bombings had wounded several others, and that the attacks were under investigation. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. The provincial police spokesman said the Taliban had planted the bombs.

Countries Battle Rising Virus Cases as WHO Sees 'Exponential' Rise
Agence France Presse/Saturday 24 October 2020
Grim data highlighted the struggle for authorities around the world to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control Saturday, as the US reported 80,000 infections in a single day, France extended a curfew to two-thirds of citizens and Germany's death toll passed 10,000.
The World Health Organization had earlier warned of an "exponential" rise in infections threatening health systems' ability to cope.
But populations weary of social isolation and economic hardship have pushed back against fresh restrictions to slow the resurgent virus' spread, including overnight clashes in hard-hit Naples between Italian police and hundreds of protesters. In the US, Covid-19 has become a central election issue ahead of a November 3 vote, with President Donald Trump on Friday promising attendees at a Florida rally that "we're going to quickly end this pandemic, this horrible plague." Meanwhile challenger Joe Biden matched Trump's vow to make a vaccine available for free to all who want it "whether or not you're insured" and said the Republican incumbent has "given up" on controlling the outbreak. Johns Hopkins University had earlier reported 79,963 new American cases in 24 hours, a new record, although the number of daily deaths has remained broadly stable since the beginning of autumn at between 700 and 800. Overall, more than 223,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US. France on Friday followed Spain past the milestone of one million cases, while the government extended an overnight curfew designed to slow the spread to affect some 46 million people. "Whatever we do in the coming days and weeks, the toll will grow heavier," Health Minister Olivier Veran told lawmakers. And after Germany recorded its 10,000th death from the coronavirus, Chancellor Angela Merkel told citizens that "the order of the day is to reduce contacts, to meet as few people as possible" in a weekly video podcast. In Poland, President Andrzej Duda tested positive for Covid-19, although an aide wrote on Twitter that he was "fine".
- 'Close to capacity' -
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had on Friday warned that "too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in Covid-19 cases and that is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close to or above capacity -- and we're still only in October."
"We urge leaders to take immediate action to prevent further unnecessary deaths." That message was echoed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), whose director Andrea Ammon warned of a "highly concerning epidemiological situation".
But moves to reintroduce restrictions were met with protest in parts of the continent. In Naples, hundreds of demonstrators turned out after a call on social media to resist a new curfew in parts of Italy, throwing objects at police and setting rubbish bins on fire. The country is reeling from its worst post-war recession after a gruelling two-month national lockdown prompted by one of Europe's worst outbreaks, and authorities have so far been reluctant to repeat the drastic quarantine restrictions seen then. Wales entered a full lockdown on Friday evening, a day after Ireland shut down, while Poland adopted a nationwide "red zone" lockdown mandating the partial closure of primary schools and restaurants. Only Sweden, which famously refused to lock down earlier this year, continued to stick to its guns despite a rise in cases.
After Spain became the first European country to officially record a million Covid-19 cases earlier in the week, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Friday the real number of infections was likely more than triple that number.
- 'We're overwhelmed' -
Across the planet, Covid-19 has now claimed the lives of 1.1 million people and infected close to 42 million, with the WHO warning the northern hemisphere was at a critical juncture. Belgium has seen one of Europe's deadliest per capita outbreaks and has found itself suffering some of the highest second-wave infection rates in Europe. "We're losing. We're overwhelmed. We're bitter," said Benoit Misset, head of the intensive care unit at the University Hospital in the city of Liege, where several of his staff are having to work despite being positive -- if asymptomatic -- themselves. Work has continued on the international quest to find a vaccine for the disease, with clinical trials for one candidate developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University resuming in the United States on Friday, six weeks after a test subject became ill.

Ethiopia Blasts Trump over Nile Dam
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 24 October, 2020
Ethiopia vowed Saturday not to "cave in to aggressions of any kind" after US President Donald Trump lashed out over the country's mega-dam on the Blue Nile. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office defended the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, set to become Africa's largest hydropower plant, and said Ethiopia was working to resolve longstanding issues over the project with downstream neighbors Sudan and Egypt. "Nonetheless, occasional statements of belligerent threats to have Ethiopia succumb to unfair terms still abound. These threats and affronts to Ethiopian sovereignty are misguided, unproductive, and clear violations of international law," his office said in a statement. "Ethiopia will not cave-in to aggressions of any kind," the statement added. A separate version of the statement issued in Amharic featured more muscular language. "There are two facts that the world has certified. The first is that there has been no one who has lived in peace after provoking Ethiopia. The second is if Ethiopians stand united for one purpose, it's inevitable, they will triumph," it said. Abiy's office did not explicitly mention Trump, but its statement came the morning after the US president weighed in on the dam dispute in support of Egypt. "It's a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Friday. "They'll end up blowing up the dam. And I said it and I say it loud and clear -- they'll blow up that dam. And they have to do something," Trump said. “The man doesn’t have a clue on what he is talking about,” former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn tweeted, calling Trump’s remark reckless and irresponsible.

Trump Suggests Egypt May 'Blow Up' GERD, Slams Ethiopia
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 24 October, 2020
US President Donald Trump on Friday voiced anger at Ethiopia over its construction of a huge dam on the Nile River and appeared to suggest that Egypt may destroy it. "It's a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
"They'll end up blowing up the dam. And I said it and I say it loud and clear -- they'll blow up that dam. And they have to do something," Trump said. The State Department in September said it was cutting off aid to Ethiopia due to its decision to begin filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) despite not reaching an agreement with the downstream nations. "I had a deal done for them and then unfortunately Ethiopia broke the deal, which they should not have done. That was a big mistake," Trump said. "They will never see that money unless they adhere to that agreement," he said. Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, asked by Trump on speakerphone about the dam, voiced appreciation for US diplomacy and said his government wanted an "amicable solution soon" among the three countries.

US Sanctions Russian Institute Linked to Dangerous Malware
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 24 October, 2020
Washington imposed sanctions on Friday on a Russian research institute tied to the development of a dangerous computer program capable of causing catastrophic industrial damage, a move that Russia called illegitimate. The US Treasury Department alleged that the Russian government-backed Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics - also known by its Russian acronym, TsNIIKhM - was responsible for "building customized tools that enabled the attack" on an unidentified petrochemical facility in the Middle East in 2017. The attack electrified the cybersecurity community when it was made public by researchers that year because - unlike typical digital intrusions aimed at stealing data or holding it for ransom - it appeared aimed at causing physical damage to the facility itself by disabling its safety system. Nathan Brubaker, an analyst with cybersecurity company FireEye - which discovered the software involved - said the apparent intent made it uniquely dangerous because disabling safety systems at a plant like that one could lead to serious consequences, such as a fire or an explosion. "The acute nature of the threat is what makes it scary," Brubaker said. "Blowing things up and killing people - that´s terrifying." Treasury also said last year the attackers behind the malware were reported to be scanning and probing at least 20 electric utilities in the United States for vulnerabilities. "We emphasize once again the illegitimacy of any one-sided restrictions. Russia, unlike the United States, does not conduct offensive operations in cyber domain," Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to the United States, said on social media. "We call on the United States to abandon the vicious practice of unfounded accusations." US officials have been on a tear in the past month, filing a glut of indictments against hackers in Russia, China, and Iran, levying sanctions, and issuing several warnings about state-backed digital intrusions. Experts see the activity as the United States warning hostile powers to not interfere in its Nov. 3 elections, less than two weeks away.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 24-25/2020

World Polio Day is a reminder of hope and a useful lesson for fighting coronavirus
Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari/Al Arabiya/Saturday 24 October 2020
Looking back on 2020, silver linings are few and far between. The global coronavirus pandemic has brought a year of calamity and continues to devastate, taking lives and livelihoods, leaving in its path grief, fear and as-yet unanswerable questions.
But even amidst the wreckage, for polio eradicators around the world, today is a special day: World Polio Day. It is a day when we reflect on progress, lessons learned, and the worthiness of the goal that has often felt just within our grasp – the eradication of polio. With the number of polio cases across the region at a five-year high and still rising, it would be easy to write this year off as a disaster for the polio program, yet another casualty of COVID-19. But I don’t agree with that assessment, and I’ll tell you why. For the polio program in our region, 2020 has very unexpectedly been the year of reinvention and resilience.
In March, as COVID-19 began to spread with speed and case numbers started rising, our colleagues across the region performed the most remarkable pivot we have seen in public health, applying their tools and resources to a brand-new foe. The case and contact tracing networks that the polio program has taken decades to build pivoted in an instant to tracking COVID-19 cases and their close contacts. In country after country, surveillance staff intensified their efforts checking thousands of patients a day, shifting focus to a new set of symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat and headache.
Polio officers became COVID officers, donning personal protective equipment (PPE) and taking swabs for testing. Health workers and social mobilizers expert in talking to parents about polio and vaccination turned to the new subject everyone was worried about. They answered questions, listened to fears, and showed millions of parents how to properly wash their and their children’s hands. Community awareness matters, and the polio program developed this quickly and effectively, often in communities that had been skeptical of vaccines and even hostile to the polio program. Vital, longed-for bridges were built.
In Pakistan, the strong capacity to collect and analyze real-time data in the polio eradication Emergency Operations Center served as the most important source of disease intelligence and evidence, guiding high-level national and provincial decision making for the response to the pandemic.
Alongside this enormous new challenge, the polio program continued to surveil for polio symptoms, the most pronounced of which is acute flaccid paralysis in a child’s body – the sudden loss of muscle tone and strength in a limb. But by the end of March, vaccination activities had come to a halt: it was simply too risky to send vaccinators out at a time like this.
Across the region and the global polio eradication program, we scoured the facts, assessed and re-assessed the fast-shifting situation on the ground, and came up with a set of protocols to safely vaccinate children against polio, even in the midst of the pandemic. When the world was clamoring for masks and gloves and PPE, the polio program secured a supply line of these vital tools, often locally, and got them to teams in the field. Thousands of polio workers across the region were trained on this new way of working – no easy feat in places like Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, with limited movement and fragile infrastructure.
In July, we got back to the work of polio vaccination, with campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and parts of Yemen. Somalia followed in September, and campaigns are planned to commence imminently in Sudan and Yemen. COVID-19 cost us the opportunity to vaccinate 50 million children. There is a large and growing immunity gap, not just to polio but also to measles, diphtheria and other vaccine-preventable diseases, and it threatens the lives of hundreds of millions of children across our region.
For too many children, the return to vaccination came too late. Wild poliovirus has paralyzed 132 children in Pakistan and Afghanistan this year, and outbreaks of vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV), a strain that emerges in chronically under-immunized populations, have paralyzed children there and in Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
We are on the back foot, there is no doubt of this. But we know what we need to do: vaccinate every child under age five with polio vaccine. And with new tools on the horizon like novel oral polio vaccine (nOPV), a more effective vaccine for control of VDPV outbreaks, we are hopeful of picking up speed as we move towards our goal. But the thing that fills me with the most hope is the test the polio program has just been through. We knew we could trace contacts, and we knew we had built impressive inroads into some of the region’s most isolated communities. We knew how to talk to parents. But we had no idea just how foundational our people and our infrastructure were to healthcare systems in the most vulnerable communities in our region, and what a critical role they play in our regional vision of health for all, by all. Now, we know – and today is a day to celebrate it.
Earlier this month I hosted the 67th session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean – a meeting of health ministers and high-level representatives from the 22 countries in this region, along with partner organizations and civil society. Polio was one of the top issues on the agenda, both for its efforts in eradicating the disease off the face of the earth, and its key contributions to the regional response to COVID-19. As I listened to colleagues from the polio program describe their year, including the loss of three colleagues to COVID-19, health workers who paid the ultimate price for their dedication, I felt humbled and grateful.
RC67 ended on a high note for the polio program, with broad support for the formation of a new Regional Subcommittee focused on gathering the political will to get us over the line and finally achieve eradication. When we have done this – and I have no doubt we will do it – we will also have something else: a remarkable public health machine, staffed by some of the most dedicated health workers I have met, ready to tackle its next challenge.

Why Mustafa Al Kadhimi deserves Europe's support
Damien McElroy/The National/October 24/2020
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi had what one might characterise
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi was in Europe last week with a simple but fiendishly difficult mission to accomplish.
Mr Al Kadhimi is a former spymaster with an acute sense of the challenges, expectations and resources in his command. He put it well himself in a briefing held on London’s Park Lane. “I dance on a daily basis with snakes but I am looking for a flute to control them,” he said with a knowing smile.
In the 15 years since Iraqi leaders began visiting London following the Saddam Hussein era, a long shadow has been cast by wars and conflict. What Mr Al Kadhimi represented this time round was someone Europeans could understand at a moment of reset.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, welcomes the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa Al Kadhimi to Downing Street in London. AP Photo
Previous Iraqi prime ministers could travel abroad to have crisis talks and not much else. In the past decade, real business was done during Nouri Al Maliki’s talks about the deployment and exit of British forces – as there was with Haider Al Abadi discussing the anti-ISIS coalition.
This time round, Mr Al Kadhimi offered something new for Europeans to seek engagement on neglected strategic and economic issues. The Prime Minister was open about a “very high threshold of expectation” from Iraq’s youthful population as his government responds to popular demands.
He was candid that protests in Baghdad did not only stem from anger at economic issues and corruption. A strong stand against sectarian interests and overweening Iranian infiltration also powered the demonstrations.
The coffers were bare in May 2020 when he took over and he has given himself a June 2021 deadline to enact reforms before new elections. The backdrop is deep and prolonged shock to the world economy from Covid-19. Iraq has powerful cards to play in the regional matrix. Baghdad is the only regional capital that can talk to all its neighbours in the framework of friendship. As Mr Al Kadhimi put it, Baghdad can mediate the “clandestine points of view” of all the countries around it. He added that Iraq can do so without preconceptions and fear of the other side. That offer could sound opaque but it is also a valuable skill set for the country.
Mr Al Kadhimi’s perspective on the changing threat from ISIS is something that resonates strongly in European capitals.
On his first stop in Paris, talks with French President Emmanuel Macron came in the wake of the murder of teacher Samuel Paty by an extremist. The incident underlined the universality of ISIS extremism and Mr Al Kadhimi was able to make that point to Mr Macron.
The Iraqi Prime Minister is determined not to see his country pushed into choices against its will. The US and Iran wage a rivalry. But while Iraq is a key arena, it is not a pawn.
Support for Mr Al Kadhimi in Europe was strong. During his meeting with Angela Merkel, the leaders discussed how to support the Iraqi security forces. The ideas that Mr Al Kadhimi has around the primacy of the state under democratic control is fully supported by the European establishment.
One point that Mr Al Kadhimi makes is that issues of infiltration go far beyond armed groups to political parties, associations, community groups and actors. So a fresh start means a broad agenda that is in need of outside backing. The appeal that Mr Al Kadhimi makes to the younger Iraqi demographic comes down to economics. Mrs Merkel made the point that she supported his efforts to build the people's confidence in state institutions through his reform agenda. She outlined measures to provide backing for Iraq in the areas of migration to address what compels people to leave their homeland. The German parliament is due to decide before the end of the month on the country’s military logistics support and training mission in Iraq. Germany’s long-serving Chancellor acknowledged that ISIS is not only a threat to Iraq but to her own country as well.
There was a strong message in favour of the economic reform ambitions presented by the Iraqi delegation in Berlin with political and business leaders.
Meanwhile in London, there was the first meeting of the Iraqi Economic Contact Group to push permanent initiatives. It is an effort to regularise how Iraq deals with big economies.
Baghdad has established financial institutions to leverage with counterparts in London. To have Mr Al Kadhimi as a chief executive capable of co-ordinating the country’s approach is an advantage.
The Prime Minister also met with Prince Charles and made new accords with the British Museum on the cultural heritage exchanges between both nations. Looking at his own country, Mr Al Kadhimi saw the obvious mismatch between reliance on rents from the oil industry and ambitions of people in their 20s and 30s. The hunger for change is palpable. Mr Al Kadhimi has a strong vision of his country’s need to change. This is both a diplomatic and a political challenge.
Perhaps the last words should remain with the man himself. Mr Al Kadhimi recognised that he did not have tall pillars of political party support. Instead, he was a man on a tight rope between buildings. “I am not only on the wire but riding a bicycle to do it,” he said.
Europe’s job is to give him the tyres.
*Damien McElroy is the London bureau chief of The National

Let’s fight the virus, not each other
Cornelia Meyer/Arab News/October 24/2020
The response to the latest cease-fire between the two warring factions in Libya has been generally enthusiastic, and the UN-brokered truce is undeniably a step in the right direction. However, it follows several agreements that did not last, including those reached in June and then August, and at the Berlin conference in January.
Libya has not enjoyed calm since Muammar Qaddafi was deposed nine years ago. Under the dictator’s rule it produced 1.8 million barrels per day of oil, which had dwindled to 1.2 million by the end of last year, with wide swings to the downside. Because of a blockade by eastern military strongman Khalifa Haftar, fewer and fewer barrels were produced, until production reached a low of 80,000 bpd in August.
The situation has changed since earlier in the year, particularly since June, when Haftar gave up his attempt to capture Tripoli and topple the Government of National Accord led by Fayez Al-Sarraj. Haftar is supported by some GCC countries, along with Egypt and France, and Russia, whose Wagner mercenaries bolstered his ranks. The GNA is recognized by the UN and supported by Turkey and Italy. This made for a classic proxy standoff, with mercenaries, arms shipments and all. Caught in the middle, like civilian populations in conflicts everywhere, were the Libyan people.
One sign that this cease-fire may be more enduring than its predecessors is that Haftar has reactivated oil infrastructure, producing up to 560,000 bpd this month. Once the oil terminals at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf open, Bloomberg expects production to exceed 1 million bpd. That is great news for Libya, but does not make the task of OPEC+ (the alliance of OPEC and 10 other producers led by Russia) in balancing oil markets any easier. An extra 1 million bpd constitutes an extra 13 percent of crude on the market as measured against the alliance’s production cuts of 7.7 million bpd.
In reminding the world that we should be fighting the virus instead of each other, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres could not have been more right. OPEC’s woes may be a side show in Libya, but oil isn’t. Control of the National Oil Company of Libya, which. will be the major source of hard currency, will be crucial. So will authority over the central bank, which will manage the cash. The GNA currently runs both, but an equitable arrangement will require a different solution, which will be among the issues discussed in November at the next round of peace talks in Tunisia.
Another important factor is whether the international powers meddling on either side in Libya will be willing to cede influence. Withdrawing mercenaries and halting arms shipments is one thing, but what happens with the arsenals that have accrued over the years? The central powers of the Libyan state have been absent for a long time, and militias and particular interests have much influence. All of them will either gain or lose from peace arrangements, and that will influence their behavior — particularly when dollar proceeds from oil sales are trickling back.
The UN and the international community have a role to play in putting the right incentives in place for mercenaries to be withdrawn, and appropriate sanctions if arms embargoes are ignored. Libya is Europe’s near neighbor, so the EU should speak with one voice and do whatever it can to enable a lasting peace, or at least an enduring cease-fire. Welcoming the latest truce, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said it ought to be an example for all armed conflicts in which mediation efforts were under way, and he specified Yemen, Afghanistan and Nagorny-Karabakh. In reminding the world that we should be fighting the virus instead of each other, he could not have been more right. Cornelia Meyer is a Ph.D.-level economist with 30 years of experience in investment banking and industry. She is chairperson and CEO of business consultancy Meyer Resources. Twitter: @MeyerResources

The US: An Inspirational Leader in the Middle East
Con Coughlin/Gatestone Institute./October 24/2020
By taking a robust approach to some of the region's more intractable issues... such as relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem, the US has produced a number of profound changes to the regional landscape, the consequences of which are likely to be felt for many years to come.
The breakthrough in the peace process, moreover, has resulted in the region being clearly divided between moderate, peace-loving countries that are prepared to engage in the peace process, and rejectionist regimes, such as Turkey and Iran, that are only interested in causing further bloodshed.
It is these countries, as well as China, Russia, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela that have most to fear in next month's presidential election if a strong and successful America returns again.
When it comes to confronting the many challenges that face the modern Middle East, the United States has proved itself to be truly inspirational at leading during the last four years. Pictured from left to right: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan at the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords at the White House on September 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
When it comes to confronting the many challenges that face the modern Middle East, the United States has proved itself to be truly inspirational at leading during the last four years.
From achieving a remarkable breakthrough in the Israeli-Arab peace process to curbing the malign activities of Iran's Islamic revolution in the region, the US has already succeeded in establishing a legacy that is the envy of many of its previous administrations.
A succession of American presidents, from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, have attempted -- and failed -- to break the endless cycle of violence that has come to characterise the region. It has only been the current distinctive style of US leadership that has made a decisive impact on the landscape of the Middle East.
The US has managed to achieve these profound changes, moreover, at a time when the omens were less than auspicious than when the current term began in 2017.
Back then, the region was in the midst of a bitter war against the fanatics of ISIS, who had seized control of large swathes of northern Syria and Iraq and were attempting to impose their barbaric form of government on the unhappy inhabitants of their so-called caliphate.
It was mainly thanks to decisive US action in fighting the jihadis that the American-led coalition was finally able to inflict a devastating defeat against the ISIS fanatics. Soon after the inauguration, the US dramatically revised the rules of engagement that had been in place under the prior administration, which had severely limited the ability of coalition forces to target ISIS terrorists. As a result, the US-led coalition was able to achieve its goal of destroying the caliphate and inflicting heavy losses on the ISIS fanatics, to the extent that today the caliphate has been reduced to rubble.
For good measure, the US even succeeded in eliminating Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mastermind of the ISIS reign of terror, while thousands more have either been killed or face being brought to justice, as is the case with the two British jihadis that belonged to an ISIS cell known as "The Beatles" who were earlier this month flown to the US to stand trial for their crimes, allegedly participating in the murders of the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as the humanitarian aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.
Indeed, it could be argued that the decisive action of the US has redefined the map of the Middle East, drawing a distinction between moderate, pro-Western Arab governments like the Gulf states that uphold the virtues of moderation and stability, and those, such as Iran, Turkey and Syria, that seek to sow discord and unrest.
Washington's peace initiative with the Taliban is another area where the administration's very different approach to Afghanistan's long-running civil war has surprised its critics. While the negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government still have a long way to go before a comprehensive peace agreement is signed, the fact that Washington has been able to sign an accord with the Taliban, with the prospect of ending two decades of continuous conflict, is nevertheless a significant achievement, one that will enable Mr Trump to fulfil his pledge to reduce America's military presence in the country.
Another area where decisive US action has had a dramatic impact on the region is its insistence on withdrawing from the flawed nuclear deal with Iran and reimposing sanctions against the mullahs. This has had a devastating impact on Tehran's ability to meddle in the affairs of its Arab neighbours. With the Iranian economy crippled by sanctions, the regime no longer has the resources available to continue financing its terrorist infrastructure throughout the region at the same level it did previously.
The carefully-targeted assassination of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January also dealt a significant blow to Tehran's ability to destabilise the region.
It is the remarkable breakthrough, though, that the current US administration has achieved in the Arab-Israeli peace process that will stand as the crowning achievement of the last four years.
As a result of the unstinting efforts made by Jared Kushner, the US president's son-in-law, to break the impasse in the peace process, Israel is now moving towards establishing normal diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, while a number of other Arab countries -- including Saudi Arabia -- are giving serious consideration to following suit. In the latest diplomatic move aimed at improving relations in the region, Washington announced that Sudan is the next country that will be establishing normal ties with Israel.
Major diplomatic breakthroughs of this nature would have been considered unthinkable when the administration first came to power. By taking a robust approach to some of the region's more intractable issues, however, such as relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem, the US has produced a number of profound changes in the regional landscape, the consequences of which are likely to be felt for many years to come.
The breakthrough in the peace process, moreover, has resulted in the region being clearly divided between moderate, peace-loving countries that are prepared to engage in the peace process, and rejectionist regimes, such as Turkey and Iran, that are only interested in causing further bloodshed.
It is these countries, as well as China, Russia, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, that have most to fear in next month's presidential election if a strong and successful America returns again.
*Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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Is Europe Headed for a Fiscal Union?
Ferdinando Giugliano/Bloomberg/October 24/2020
Amid the gloom of the pandemic’s second wave, some European enthusiasts are wondering whether this crisis might finally usher in a “fiscal union” of states — something akin to the US.
The roaring success this week of the European Union’s first social bond, issued to help fight off the pandemic recession, shows investors are eager to lend money to the EU as a whole, rather than just to constituent countries. At the same time Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, is encouraging the bloc to consider turning the joint-debt instruments created during the pandemic into permanent tools. This would move the EU a step closer to becoming a federation of states, since the European Commission —which is issuing the bonds — would have a bigger budget to redistribute resources toward countries in need.
Europe, and the euro zone in particular, would gain plenty from a system of cross-border fiscal transfers, provided adequate Brussels checks on national budgets were in place to stop reckless spending. The currency union has a single central bank and monetary policy that cannot easily cater to the needs of an individual country that faces a deep or isolated shock.
But for all the enthusiasm of investors and Lagarde, the obstacles to a fiscal union remain above all political. These won’t disappear despite the breakthrough of agreeing joint pandemic funds.
This week’s bond auction to fund an EU scheme that supports labor markets attracted 233 billion euros ($275 billion) in orders — well above the 17 billion-euro issuance. As my colleague Marcus Ashworth explained, this proves the EU can be a serious player in global debt-raising.
And yet, a lack of appetite from the markets was never the real obstacle to deepening the European project. Investors have flocked to lend money to the European Stability Mechanism — the euro zone’s rescue fund — since its creation during the last decade’s sovereign debt crisis. The EU social bonds offer a triple-A rating, increasingly scarce in a world of vast sovereign debt. While the EU’s 10-year issuance offered a negative yield, it is still less negative — and hence more attractive — than other AAA paper such as German bunds.
Unfortunately the political hurdles to closer union still look sizeable, as some countries with stronger finances fear having to support their endlessly flailing neighbors.
For all its success in terms of orders, this week’s auction reinforced this concern: The EU’s social bonds yield more than comparable securities from Germany, the Netherlands and Finland, and less than those from Spain, Italy or Greece. At a time when yields are compressed everywhere, these differences are minimal. However, they still show that participating in such “euro bonds” is better for fragile countries (they pay out less than their own bonds) and relatively expensive for those with more robust shoulders.
The EU did manage to overcome such difficulties in the summer, when it reached a historic agreement over a joint 750-billion euro fund that will disproportionately help countries such as Italy and Spain.
Crucially, this tool will offer grants — essentially giving money to the recipients — as well as loans, breaking a euro zone taboo. But negotiations over the fund are ongoing and arduous. The European Parliament is demanding stricter mechanisms to deny money to those countries that break democratic principles such as Hungary and Poland. The Netherlands, long opposed to grants, is also demanding tougher terms on the fund.
As a result, it’s unlikely that EU countries will receive any help until mid-2021. For now, individual governments have no trouble funding themselves on the market at very low rates. It’s troubling nonetheless that an instrument set up to deal with an emergency will be delayed because of political wrangling. Old habits die hard in Europe — and excited investors won’t change that.

A $15 Minimum Wage Would Wreck US Economic Recovery
Michael R. Strain/Bloomberg/October 24/2020
In Thursday night’s debate, both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden expressed openness to a $15-per-hour national minimum wage. Biden seems all for it, and Trump indicated it may be a good idea for some states.
They both know that raising the wage level is a popular idea among Republicans as well as Democrats, if polls are to be believed. But a wage floor at $15 would set the recovery back by reducing employment.
Biden tried to rebut that point during the debate: “There is no evidence that when you raise the minimum wage, business has gone out of business,” he asserted. He’s right that evidence is limited on what a $15-per-hour minimum wage would do to workers and businesses. That’s because it is such a high minimum that few states and localities have tried it.
In July 2019, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that a $15 minimum wage would eliminate 1.3 million jobs. The CBO also forecast that such an increase would reduce business income, raise consumer prices, and slow the economy.
The US economy will be very weak throughout 2021. The nation will need more business income, not less; more jobs, not fewer; and faster, not slower, economic growth. A $15 minimum wage would move the economy in the wrong direction across all these fronts.
For his part, Trump said he favors a more regional approach. In “some places, $15 is not so bad,” the president said, implying it could be justified. But in parts of the country, he thinks it wouldn’t make sense.
The president is half-right. It’s a slam-dunk case that a $15 minimum wage would be devastating to low-wage workers in much of the country, even after the economy has fully recovered from the Pandemic Recession.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of all workers in 20 states earned less than $18 per hour in 2019. In 35 states, the median hourly wage was less than $20. Setting a minimum wage so close to the median wage would price many workers out of the labor market. Indeed, in 47 states, 25% of all workers earned less than $15 an hour.
Trump seems to think that $15 per hour would work in higher-wage states. That’s off base, too. A team of economists, including the University of Washington’s Jacob Vigdor, have been studying the employment effects of Seattle’s move to increase its minimum wage to $15. In 2016, Seattle — a high-wage city — had hit a $13 minimum, on its way to $15.
The economists found that this led to a 9% reduction in low-wage jobs. The pay increase it generated didn’t make up for the reduction in employment, and earnings fell for low-wage workers overall. The economists’ subsequent research found that the gains from the higher minimum wage accrued to more experienced workers.
When Biden was asked at the debate whether he supports the $15 wage, he answered that he does, but he immediately pivoted to mention the Paycheck Protection Program as a way to help workers and businesses. The PPP was enacted as part of the $1.8 trillion package passed in March to help support the economy during the pandemic. The program offers forgivable loans to businesses with fewer than 500 employees to keep their workers on the payroll and to keep businesses from going under.
The program expired in August, and Biden is absolutely right that it needs to be back up and running to support businesses and workers while the coronavirus is still raging. Rather than reducing employment as a $15 federal minimum wage would do, my own research with economist Glenn Hubbard suggests that the PPP boosted jobs among small businesses in the early months of the program.
Biden argued that the US should adopt a $15 wage floor because workers — the vice president specifically mentioned the “first responders we all clap for as they come down the street” — should not live in poverty. Set aside the specifics and focus on the general principle: Biden is right that no one who works full time and heads a household should be in poverty.
The best way to help ensure that workers aren’t in this situation isn’t through wage regulation. Instead, this goal should be pursued with resources from all of society. By mandating higher hourly pay, the minimum wage places the burden of fighting poverty on the employers of low-wage workers and the customers of low-wage businesses. But economists, columnists, professionals and hedge funds should pitch in, too.
The federal earned-income tax credit assures exactly this. It uses tax revenue to supplement the earnings of low-income households. It reduces poverty, lifting millions of people — including several million children — out of poverty each year. Because it increases the financial rewards for working, it increases employment.
Biden has gone to great lengths to distance himself from his party’s far-left flank. In the final presidential debate, Trump tried to paint Biden as a supporter of single-payer health care in the mold of Senator Bernie Sanders. Biden responded: Trump “thinks he's running against someone else. He's running against Joe Biden. I beat all those other people because I disagreed with them.”
A $15-an-hour hour federal minimum wage — more the double the current minimum — is one of the few far-left policies Biden supports. But mandating it would create a huge obstacle for the least-experienced, least-skilled, most vulnerable workers in the US.
When push comes to shove, would a President Biden actually support a $15 national wage floor? I’m skeptical. But all signs suggest that the nation might be about to find out.